Make a media splash after the Games and you might sink without trace, medal winner warns athletes
Adam Sherwin is Media Correspondent at The Independent and an award-winning writer who specialises in covering the entertainment, broadcasting, music and popular culture industries. Previously Media writer and diarist at The Times, he was a co-founder of the Beehive City media and entertainment website. As regular contributor to BBC London 94.9 Radio station, he was named Music Business writer of the year at the awards of influential music industry site Record of the Day in 2006.
Tuesday 22 January 2013
Britain's Olympic heroes who become seduced by a celebrity lifestyle are placing their future sporting success at risk, one of the London Games' medal-winners has warned.
Robbie Grabarz, who won bronze in the high jump, said that athletes who pursue lucrative careers in reality television at the expense of their training routines would get their "comeuppance" when they return to competition.
Grabarz's warning follows criticism of Tom Daley, the teenage diving star, who is currently starring in the ITV celebrity diving series, Splash!
David Sparkes, the chief executive of British Swimming, told the bronze medal winner that his burgeoning television career was jeopardising his future as an elite athlete.
Grabarz told Radio Times: "It's weird seeing on TV all these people you went to training camps with. I mean, people have launched minor celebrity careers off the back of last summer; it's all very surreal, but it doesn't really bother me."
The athlete, 25, added: "You can't hide in track and field. If they want to continue with their athletics career then they will get their comeup- pance come the summer, which will either make them pull their fin-ger out and come back in 2014, or they'll disappear."
Louis Smith, the gymnast who won Strictly Come Dancing and Daley are among the medal-winners who have taken advantage of the media opportunities their success has generated.
Grabarz argued: "I never did high jump because I wanted to be famous. I can't imagine anything worse, in my opinion. But I know some people see all the attention after London as a kind of escape from athletics.
"This celebrity lifestyle that seems so easy and so wonderful, they want it and they go for it. The negative comes, of course, when those people let trying to be famous distract them from their training."
But Grabarz's Team GB colleagues may be surprised by his comments, given his own television appearances since the Games. He was one of a number of medal winners who took part in the BBC's Christmas revival of the cult 70s series, Superstars.
"Superstars was the one thing I had to do, no matter what," Grabarz said. "I told my coach I was going to be away filming for the weekend and we just fitted it into my schedule. I'm glad I did it; I don't think I've laughed so much since I was at school! I'm only human, after all. I'd go mad if I didn't let myself go a bit."
Daley's mother, Debbie, rejected criticism of her son's coaching role on Splash!, telling Sparkes that Tom was "one of the few major success stories for British swimming this summer... and possibly one of the athletes that helped you retain your job". Daley went straight back to training for five weeks to prepare for the junior world championships after the Games, his mother said.
Grabarz, Britain's number one high jumper, lost his Lottery funding before the Games, but has now been restored to UK Athletics' top-level funding list.
He receives a personal income of up to £27,737 a year as well as around £55,000-worth of training and health support but relies on prize money from his performances international meetings to top up his earnings.
"Financially, being on the UK Athletics funding list relieves all pressure," he explains. "It means I'm not afraid to say no if some offer away from athletics comes in that I don't want to do."
Olympic celebrities life after London
Marked out as a future media star after posing with Kate Moss at a photo shoot for Italian Vogue aged 15. TV career beckons after coaching role on hit celebrity diving show Splash! despite concern over outside commitments.
Installed as a mod icon after Tour de France and Olympic triumphs, "Wiggo" recorded a BBC 6Music radio special with musical hero Paul Weller and joined him on stage at Hammersmith Odeon to strum through Jam song 'That's Entertainment'.
Awarded Brand Personality of the Year at the Marketing Society annual dinner last year, the heptathlon champion is set to earn £2m from endorsements including Olay, Jaguar and British Airways. Will she sell picture rights to her spring wedding?
Bronze medal-winning boxer is a semi-professional model who posed naked for Attitude magazine and appeared in Celebrity Big Brother. Tweeted his embarrassment at wearing skimpy trunks for role in Splash!
Topless performance on Strictly Come Dancing took the glitterball prize. Double 2012 medal-winning gymnast will now join the Strictly tour and bring his flamboyant dress sense to new BBC quiz, I Love My Country.
Gold medal-winning bantamweight boxer answered the call to take part in ITV's Dancing On Ice where he survived a public vote this week. Admitted he feared a wrist injury in the show could end his boxing career.
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